U.S. Nationals

January 21, I attended Eastern Sectionals for Synchronized Skating in Norwood, MA. The competition determined who will go to Synchro nationals. I was there rooting for three teams.

My coach competes with the Skating Club of Boston’s adult Excel team. They came in second. She coaches the University of Massachusetts team and they came in 4th. Both teams will be going to nationals which is  in Peoria, March 1-4.

This summer another one of the coaches stated an Open Masters synchro team. I attended the first practice but decided not to participate. That team, River Valley Synchro, came in third, receiving a medal. They are not eligible for nationals.

This week, through Sunday, I am busy  watching  United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) Nationals. This competition determines who will go to Worlds. Since I have been consumed with skating, I haven’t been thinking about much else. As a result, I decided to forgo writing a post for today. I will be back next week with a fully developed piece.

Advice From My Inner Sage

Last Friday I attended a writing retreat sponsored by the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center. The first part of the retreat was a workshop led by Cathy Luna and Serin Houston. As part of the workshop, we did some free writing in response to a few different prompts. The prompt I used was “write a letter to yourself from your wisest inner sage.”

The prompt reminded me of a weekly exercise we did when I was either in 5th or 6th grade. Every week someone had to be the class monitor. At the end of the week, you had to produce minutes that detailed what had gone on during that time. When it was my turn to be monitor, I always tried to find interesting ways to present the minutes. One time I wrote them as if I was on the ceiling looking down. For the exercise last Friday, I wound up writing about publishing.

My wisest inner sage gave me advice about my book. She is positive it will get published. She assured me that there are a variety of ways this could happen. After I began writing, I realized I was about to do a hierarchy of publishing like my younger son Alan’s hierarchies of  M&M’s and French fries.

Here is my hierarchy:

The best outcome would be agent to publisher. This doesn’t seem that realistic, but it is something to strive for.

Next best would be securing a contract from a commercial publisher. This is really an outlier because I am unlikely to get a commercial press without an agent. However, if Cynren  would take it after I send them the second draft that would be a score. If I send it to Algora, the publishers of  Brewing Battles, that will also count as having achieved some degree of commercial success.

Third in line  would be Feminist Press. This is the press I always wanted to publish the book, but I recently found out that they are close to submissions at the current time, so it is a no go.

After Feminist Press would be  any academic press. I have queries and book proposals out to several of them, so we’ll see what happens with that.

The next to last in terms of desirability would be hybrid publication. I think my age gets in the way of my considering hybrid because it sounds like a vanity press to me. My Aunt Ruth’s friend Laura paid a press to publish her book about Shakespeare and politics. It is terrible looking with large font. It just doesn’t look like an actual book. I am afraid of getting scammed.

The last possibility in the hierarchy  would be self-publishing but that feels like a lot of work. I am going to talk to both Levelers Press which is local, and Off the Common which is their self-publishing division. It is my fervent wish that my wisest inner sage is correct, and my book is published.

I have written several other posts about publishing. One is recent, from last year. The other two are from  over ten years ago when I had published Brewing Battle and first started working on Dames, Dishes and Degrees. You can read them here and here.

 

Book Party

Yesterday I helped host a book party for Aaron Berman, author of America’s Arab Nationalists: From the Ottoman Revolution to the Rise of Hitler, (Routledge 2023). Aaron, as some of you know, is my husband. The event was lovely with a mixture of colleagues, family, and friends attending. Aaron read from the book and answered questions.

Here are two pictures from the party:

Here is  how to buy the book. Here is a link to an interview of Aaron by Jadaliyya  as well as a link to his appearance on the podcast, New Books Network, crosslisted in both American Studies and Middle East Studies.

 

Chopped Liver

As has often been the case lately, I find myself not knowing what to write. After a few weeks off, today is the first day of the latest session of Nerissa’s writing group. In the chit chat before the group formally started, one of the participants remarked in response to something someone else said,  “What am I -chopped liver? That quip brought back memories of the dish.

For several months, leading up to Passover, my mother would save both the liver and the fat – schmaltz – from every chicken she cooked. She was following her mother’s practices. My grandmother and grandfather owned a delicatessen in Long Beach, Long Island. As I have written elsewhere, my grandmother was an amazing cook, although she cooked Eastern European dishes and did not really cook American things such as a hamburger.

Once my mother had enough livers and fat, my father took over. He would render the fat; the pieces left over were gribenes. Gribenes, similar to pork cracklings, are one of the best foods in the world. I would love to have some right now.

Using the rendered schmaltz, my father would chop and mix the liver with the fat and some onions. Delicious. Memories of food are all mixed up with memories of the people who made the dishes. Eating gribenes and chopped liver would feed my palate but also my soul. Remembering my father, with his sly humor, cooking with me, a sometimes-sullen teenager is both sad and comforting.

I have my grandmother’s apron from the store. That is what we called Al’s Delicatessen. Whenever I put that on, the memories flood back. Her kind, generous face. Her care for everyone in the family. My mother’s grief when her mother died.

Richard is right; to say “what am I – chopped liver?” when chopped liver carries such precious cargo must be a compliment.

The Impending Crisis

Today’s post  was going to be about my plans for 2023, however, the ongoing debacle that is the Speaker of the House election caused me to go in a different direction.

As many of you know, I have a PhD in American history from Columbia University. The first step in that process was obtaining a master’s degree. To achieve that I had to take courses and write a master’s essay. My master’s essay was entitled “A Perceptual study of the Ante-bellum Yeomanry 1820 to 1860.”

I looked at non slaveholding whites in the southern states, analyzing travel narratives and political documents. One of the books I explored was The Impending  Crisis by Hinton R. Helper, published in 1857. The book played a significant role in one of the country’s earlier protracted Speaker contests.

Here is an excerpt from my 1978 master’s essay:

On December 5, 1859, the first session of the thirty-sixth Congress convened in Washington. Three days earlier John Brown had been executed and the atmosphere was extremely tense. A major problem facing the Congress was the lack of a party majority in the House of Representatives. There were 101 Democrats, 109 Republicans and twenty-seven Know Nothings – all but four from the South. There were also a few independents. Many congressmen were armed, and John Branch of North Carolina challenged Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania to a duel.

The tension and potential for violence focused around the selection of a speaker of the house. This position had particular significance since many politicians believe the 1860 presidential election would be decided by the House of Representatives. The speaker, who had wide appointive powers, would obviously play a vital role in such an event. At the end of the first ballot, John Sherman, Republican from Ohio, and Thomas S. Borock, Democrat of Virginia, emerged as the two major candidates. John B Clark of Missouri then introduced a resolution declaring:

“… the doctrines and sentiments of a certain book called “The Impending Crisis of the South – How to Meet It”, purporting to have been written by one Hinton R. Helper, are insurrectionary and hostile to the domestic peace and tranquility of the country, and that no member of this House who has endorsed and recommended it, or the compendium from it is fit to be speaker of this House.”

This resolution served as the basis of a two month debate of the sectional controversy which had confronted the nation for many years.[1]

Because John’s Sherman was an endorser of the compendium, Clark’s resolution was directed against him. Republican responses ranged from complete denouncement of The Impending Crisis to a denial of knowledge of the “true” nature of the book. Since the compendium had been modified, others admitted signing without having ever read the work.

Sherman’s explanation of his position contained several of these arguments, but none were particularly successful in breaking the deadlock. On February 1, 1860, two months into the term, Sherman reluctantly withdrew his candidacy. After forty-four ballots, William Pennington of New Jersey, a member of the People’s Party, was elected.[2]

The speakership contest greatly increased The Impending Crisis’s popularity, but the conflict is important historically for its prefiguring of the succession crisis of 1860-1861. Both the rhetoric and actions of the Southern Democratic congressman tell us much about their fears, concerns, and ideological justifications which are crystallized significantly since 1850 and would ultimately propel the nation towards civil war. …

The level of violence in the Congress rose dramatically and the tenseness of the atmosphere was increased by the fact that some southerners “favored disruption over the issue of John Sherman’s election to the speakership, as the spark which would set off the explosion they desired.” Most southerners did not consider secession as a viable option at this time, but the conflict increased the probability of disunion if a Republican became president.[3]

Hinton Rowan Helper c.1860 Engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie.

[1] Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 1st Sess. Washington, 1860, 1-3.

[2] Ibid., 147-148, 546, 548.

[3] Ollinger Crenshaw, “The Speakership Contest of 1859-1860, John Sherman’s Election A Cause of Disruption, “ Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXIX, o. 3 (December 1942), 336.

© Amy Mittelman 2023. Do not reproduce without the author’s permission.